Accounting Internship Salary Discussion

You are almost there in getting the offer. Now the tricky part: would they ask about salary expectation? What should you say, or not to say?

Accounting Internship Salary is Generally Not Discussed

The good thing is that accounting internship salary is rarely discussed in the interview especially in Big 4 or other companies with a standard internship program.

You don’t really have the ability to negotiate until at least after your first year as an associate, and only if you are some sort of “super” employee.

What You Should Do

Stop worry about it! Focus on how you are going to wow your interviewers and land an offer first.

What You Should NOT Do

Bring up the salary discussion during the interview. It could be awkward because the interviewer is not prepared to talk about it. Or worse, if they thought you are trying to negotiate a higher salary, they might just change their minds and move onto the next 100 candidates who hope to get the position.

If It Does Comes Up…

There is still a chance that you are asked to suggest a salary level. This is especially the case if the partners/owners in a small firm are interviewing you and they no idea which level they should pay.

I’d probably be vague and say something about how you are more interested in the experience than getting a specific dollar amount.

What’s the Salary Range Anyway?

Just to give you a perspective, I’ve asked my readers and the accounting internship per hour rate ranges from $12 to $28.

It varies due to the nature of the work, for example, non-profits tend to pay lower. The location and the cost of living is another important factor. It also depends on your educational background and how respectable your accounting program is.

At the end of the day, the priority should always be getting the experience, and hopefully an extension of offer for any accounting internship. Good luck!

Big 4 Hiring Process

Big 4 accounting firms recruit most of their first-year staff through campus recruiting. Most candidates receive their offers through either first round or second round hires.

First Round Hires

First round candidates usually intern in the summer before graduation. At the end of the summer internship, they are given an official “start date” which is usually 12-18 months later, that is, anytime from September of next year to January in the year after.

Second Round Hires

The second round of new hires are usually given offers in the months leading up to their start dates. Start dates usually coincide with the start of academic semesters. Big 4 tend to hire “way out”, i.e. hiring people many months in advance of the intended start dates.

The above Big 4 hiring process applies only for “new hires”, i.e. those without full-time experience. Professional hires are made at any point during the year when there is a need.

The Offer

The firm typically mails out, via FedEx/UPS, a formal offer packet which includes the terms of the offer. HR will follow-up that packet with a phone call to ensure the new hires received it and ensure they don’t have any unanswered questions.

Big 4 Hiring Season

Like many big financial institutions, Big 4 accounting firms start a year early to fill up their first-year class.

Fall is the biggest hiring season as recruiters look for candidates who will be starting in summer, winter and fall of next year. Most first-year staffs prefer to start in September as they would like to enjoy their “last” summer holidays before work.

Big 4 Hiring Through Campus Recruiting

A typical candidate goes through the Big 4 hiring process via campus recruiting. The information session and signing up for interviews start in fall, shortly after the beginning of school year. Students receive first and second round interviews in the month of November. Successful ones are notified within a week. If they decline the offer, recruiters will call the ones on the waiting list.

Having said that, the hiring process is technically year round due to staff shortages in certain offices.

Starting Dates

Some firms have one starting date when everyone attend the training. Others may have several start dates nationally, because they have to stagger them somewhat in order to accommodate everyone (both new and experienced hires) as well as meeting local office staffing needs.

Opportunities Outside of Campus Recruiting

If you don’t attend one of the target schools, you will need to work harder to get a slot in the interview. Call up a recruiter and ask whether they are willing to see you when there is a campus interview in a neighboring school.

Flexibility helps as well. If you want to join Big 4 as a lateral hire, you might want to indicate early that you can be available off-season. Specifically, you can ask whether there are offices that need staff immediately.

For Your Further Reading


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